I can’t NOT love a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, but I may have loved this one a little (OK, maybe a lot) less than I usually love a gallop through Discworld, maybe because it was more of a trot than a gallop? This book was less lively, less chock full of barbed hilarity, less truly representative of my favorite characters, less magical–all perhaps because it was written after the great Mr. P. had Alzheimers–I’ve even seen some say it can’t have been written by him at all. I’m not that into conspiracy theories, but I can see where they’d get that idea and maybe they’re right. I just hate to feel disappointed with any Discworld novel, since they’ve been consistently a delight for me.
Putting that aside, this is another magic in the science story–this time Ankh-Morpork is getting a railway (and well, other places, but it’s starting from there). The somewhat magical piece is the first steam engine, Iron Girder, who is not just a simple steam engine but a Personality. She’s probably my favorite part of the story, along with her creator Dick Semnel. I just wish they’re had been more of them and less of the grinding slow bits about getting the railway going and bureaucracy and commerce, etc. Pratchett can lampoon bureaucracy and commerce just fine in some books, but it just dragged along here in a way I don’t usually see in a Discworld novel. Some of the other characters just weren’t quite what they usually are. Even the delightful despot Lord Vetinari was dimmed, which is a shame.
I’d say if you’re a Discworld fan, this is not a huge must-read unless you’re a completist. If you haven’t tried Discworld, then don’t start here. Check this out for some help. Personally I’d start with the Death novels, because I love the Death character, but I might be a weirdo.
And Terry Pratchett, wherever your essence now is in the cosmos, thanks for your lovely imagination, your fantastic wit, and you’re elegant snark. We’ll miss you.